STREET ROUNDS – As people, we have a lot to be thankful for. And one of those is the fact that we are a free people and have a land that we can call our own. We must remember however that this came with a price.
The Philippine Revolution, which united the 87 liguistic groups of “Filipinos” for the first time to fight against Spain, claimed more than 200,000 lives. The Philippine-American War claimed close to 2 million Filipino lives. Most of the casualties were farmers who were ill-trained for combat and of course civilians, mostly women and children.
Most modern Filipinos today could barely appreciate this national loss of almost a fifth of the country’s population. We could not fully understand and appreciate what their ultimate sacrifice really meant. But because of their love for our country, we are now free people with the right to self-determination.
LOVE OF COUNTRY and SACRIFICE
There are different ways to express our love of country:
Standing at attention and singing the National Anthem during flag ceremonies.
- Obeying traffic rules.
- Caring for the environment.
- Protecting our natural resources.
- Embracing Filipino art, culture and values.
- Patronizing local products.
- Paying your taxes.
- Studying our history.
Moreover, nationalism also involves loving and caring for one’s neighbor and every single Filipino, regardless of his religion, his tongue, his education, or status in life… especially those who are underprivileged.
Our national hero Andres Bonifacio and the rest of the Katipuneros (who were ordinary peasants) sacrificed their lives willingly to give succeeding generations a better chance in life. They wanted change; food for their sustenance; and shelter for their families.
They wanted education for every generation of children. They wanted access to health services and medicines. Their solution was to build their own government that will make sure that our basic needs will be enjoyed by every Filipino from generation to generation.
UNREALIZED DREAMS of the REVOLUTION
More than a hundred years later after the very first revolution in Asia, we ask ourselves if our people have started to feel the benefits that our revolutionary heroes died for.[pq]A recent survey shows that 22 percent of Filipinos or about 4.8 million families claimed to have experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the previous three months (SWS Survey, Sep 2014).[/pq]
There is a housing need of 3.9 million units for a growing population (2007-2016) plus 1.3 million in housing backlog including those for the homeless (e.g. living in caves, under the bridge, push carts and streets, abandoned buildings (Gov’t Data). There is an increasing dropout rates trend in both elementary and secondary levels since 2007 up to 2013, reaching to as high as 7.33% and 12.5%, respectively (DepEd Research & Statistics Division. The reasons mainly are lack of interest, distractions, disasters and conflict areas.
In terms of health, Filipinos still shell out 60% of the total health expenditures despite the promise of “Universal Health Care” through the PhilHealth. Government hospitals are being modernized and equipped not primarily to benefit the patients but so that these hospitals can be sold more easily to interested private companies, thus effectively unloading the government of its responsibilities. An example is the “modernization” of the Philippine National Orthopedic Hospital through a “Private Public Partnership (PPP)” program with Megawide Construction Corp and World Citi Consortium.
After so many lives lost and so many years of so-called self-rule, is this all that we can have? Have we really succeeded in creating a government that will provide us with these basic necessities using our taxes? Or shall we live and die with a government controlled by just 55 political families with an unbreakable hold on power?
BLAMING THE VICTIMS
If we do not love our country and its people enough then perhaps we do deserve what we get. If in the face of rampant rape of our natural resources and environment by mining companies, depriving our indigenous people of sources of livelihood and dwelling, we show apathy and disconcern; if in instances of plunder of our hard earned taxes we do nothing but whine and sulk in our facebook pages and refuse to go out in the streets to displace indignation; if we, as doctors, can tolerate the inaccessibility of our services, medicines, hospitalization to the needy and simply accept that the government has no money for them –despite the blatant corruption that we see in government; if we continue tolerating the status quo by not “rocking the boat” so that there will be “peace” and “unity” in our country, then you certainly do not love your people and the nation.
For it is true what a Sangguniang Bayan member from Aparri, Reginald B. Tamayo, once said: “It is not love but apathy when we watch our country being gang-raped by political psychopaths. It is not also love but boredom when we allow the illegal numbers game, graft, corruption, immorality and other social evils to persist.” (Phil Daily Inquirer 3 Mar 2009)
Some will blame the poor for keeping corrupt politicians in power, accepting bribe money in exchange for their votes. But if we put ourselves in the shoes of the downtrodden, that P500-1000 bill is our meal for the next week or two. Political families has kept our people poor, ignorant, hungry, uneducated, and desperate so that they will keep on depending on them for survival. This feudal way of life must be broken if the country is to move forward.
UNBREAKABLE SYSTEM vs MASS ACTIVISM
Most will say that the system is so encroached that it will take another Bonifacio revolution to replace it with a new one. Difficult. But we can actually start that revolution ourselves. By actively participating in political exercises and openly expressing our dissent to graft and corruption in government.
Our country is blessed with a large, educated middle class. The people look up to them for leadership in times of crisis. Remember EDSA 1 and EDSA 2? Our opinion matters to the masses. We must continue educating them. It may be a long and difficult road but we have to start somewhere.
We must always stand by them. We must not cower when an abusive ruling class is oppressing them. Otherwise we will never be able to start a revolution to cleanse the rotten system we are in right now.
In His recent visit to the Philippines last month, His Holiness Pope Francis left an important message to the clergy and the Filipino people: “to acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mark the face of Filipino society…” He goes on to enlighten us that “only by becoming poor ourselves, by stripping away our complacency, will we be able to identify with the least of our brothers and sisters. We will see things in a new light and thus respond with honesty and integrity to the challenge of proclaiming the radicalism of the Gospel in a society which has grown comfortable with social exclusion, polarization and scandalous inequality.” (Vatican Radio)
This is a tall order from the Holy See but the logic is there and is simply irrefutable. You must love your neighbor and your people. And you can show this by uplifting their lives, give them opportunities to help themselves, aid them in times of harsh need… liberate them from an oppressive government that thrives by keeping them poor and susceptible to abuse.
If we do this, and if we succeed, then we will have done the will of Christ and fulfilled the dreams and aspirations of Bonifacio and all those who gave up their lives so that others may have a better future.
BREAKING THE PEACE: FALLEN 44
On a final note, I feel that this article will not be complete if I do not mention the 44 soldiers of the PNP Special Action Force (and 20 civilian guides, paramilitary and CAFGU) who died in an operation to arrest Malaysian bomb expert and Jemaah Islamiya leader, Marwan, said to be the equivalent of Osama bin Laden in Southeast Asia and his second in command, Usman (The two had a total of US$9 million bounty from the US government).
The operation ended in a massacre leading to the destabilization of the peace talks between the MILF and the GRP and the passage of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law now pending in Congress.
The Moro people are our brothers. They are Filipinos who have a right to their land and to enjoy what the land has to give to them. They are no different to the Cordillerans who are entitled to the gold in their mines, or the Pangasinense to their bountiful harvest of palay and fish. We all have a right to live in peace and prosperity, which is what Christ and Mohammad would really want.
The resulting disruption in the peace talks and the peace process, courtesy of ill-conceived plans and decisions of our President and his “kabarkada” and “kabarilan”, is simply not acceptable and is definitely not a manifestation of “love of country.”
It is love for chaos and war and the use of force when negotiations would have been a better option. Did he badly need to impress his master, the US government, that he was willing to sacrifice years of peace efforts and further divide his people? Such a leader does not deserve to rule the Filipino people. He ought to be ousted and made accountable for his actions and inactions.
A final salute to the Fallen 44, your sacrifice will never be in vain for you have united the nation once again.
– Dr. Darby Santiago
editor’s note: this article does not reflect the opinion of the entire Medical Observer organization regarding the matter.